Tag Archives: books

Day of Little Progress

The title doesn’t really narrow it down as most days are like that. I made breakfast cobs (bacon and tomato and bacon and black pudding for those of you interested in the opposite of fine dining), done a bit on WP and watched TV. I had to go for Prime in the end, as terrestrial TV is dire. It’s either garbage or repeats or football and Songs of Praise. I didn’t mind Sogs of Praise when it was in the evening, but it seems wrong when it’s on in the afternoon.

The film I watched was Renegades. It’s not a great film, but it’s a decent effort and has a great cast. The script is quite sharp and there is sufficient action, though if I’d been directing it I’d have put in more gunfire and explosions.

I then moved on to Decline and Fall. I like the book, though I probably haven’t read it for 20 years. I like the series too, though it’s a touch long-winded. I keep meaning to re-read Waugh, so this might actually get me doing it. First I need to get through my current book. It’s about the rise and fall of Rome, but I’m only just moving on to the Republic, so I have a long way to go yet.

I just looked up Waugh’s books on Kindle. I will probably join a library. I’m not paying £5.99 for a book that doesn’t physically exist and which, as I understand it, I don’t actually own.  I don’t mind paying decent money for reference books and newly written books (authors need some sort of encouragement) but I don’t see why Waugh’s literary estate needs to milk it quite so much.

After that I made soup. Red Pepper, Bean and Tomato soup. It will be good for lunch for the next week. I may take a photo this time.

Things to do when I retire –

  1. Join Library.
  2. ?
  3. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Failure, Another Perspective

I had my copy of Ribbons today – the magazine of the Tanka Society of America. I jhave three poems in it, so I am happy. Slightly less happy that it will be reducing to two magazines a year instead of three, but if it relieves some of the workload on the committee you can’t really argue with it. I know from previous volunteering how hard and thankless it can be. The loss of one hance a year to publish is a small price to pay for the continued smooth running of the society.

I’ve been watching a documentary on TV – David Harewood’s F Wordand it was quite interesting. He interviewed some successful actors (including Brian Cox, Olivia Colman and Damian Lewis) and it seems that they are all just as susceptible to worries about success and failure as I am. Admittedly, we operate t different levels and I’m way behind in terms of wealth and global recognition, but we all seem to think pretty much the same.

Brian Cox, for instance, says a bad review is just the opinion of one person, who might be having a bad day, while Olivia Colman told of her experiences after winning awards and still finding herself out of work. Having said that, I expect that being an out of work Oscar winner is probably still better than being an unemployed non-Oscar winner.

Most actors who have any moderate fame seem to fill their time quite nicely with writing books for children. It seems all the rage at the moment. This is an interesting article on the subject. I’m not sure how I feel about some of the comments, particularly the ones about being careful bout what children read at an early age. One of mine was a poor reader until he started reading Pokemon cards to his younger brother and then moved on to sports journalism. By the time he wrote his first essay at University he was miles away from having a good academic style but he quickly learned. The other one just read graphic novels, or comic books as I always think of them. A local librarian told me to be grateful that he ws reading anything voluntarily.

The problem, as mentioned in the article, is that there is a touch of snobbery about what kids read, just as there used to be when libraries removed Enid Blyton books. Personally, I read a lot of classics in Dean & Sons junior editions. I still remember ploughing through Jane Eyre and similar stuff when I was far too young. having been taught to read by the time I was five I was skilful enough to read a lot of novels that I was far too young to appreciate. It was only when I moved on to Biggles and William and Enid Blyton that I actually liked reading and I haven’t stopped since., though I have rarely gone back to fine literature after my early experiences.


Dull Day Blues

There are so many things I could write about, but somehow they all get crowded out of my head by the sight of a keyboard. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had an interesting life, but I don’t, and all my days seem to be much the same.

If the town was on fire and I needed to bury my cheese, or if my tailor was making me several new suits I could, I suppose, have a diary as interesting as that of Samuel Pepys. If I had a bicycle or a road full of ponies, I could be as . . .

. . . well, you’ve all been round WP, you tell me.

Other people also write interesting blogs, so don’t feel left out, it’s just that I identify with some more than others.

Today I will just settle for telling you about posting prohibited items to China. I’m not sure of the exact range, but here are a few examples – both of prohibited goods and the irony of some of the listings.

There are a number of sensible prohibitions in place – you aren’t, as far as I know, allowed to send radio-active material through the post to any country.  I also know that Bosnia Herzegovina specifically prohibits the sending of nuclear reactors through the post. I’d love to see the size of their envelopes.

Books . . .

For China, you cannot send “Articles infringing upon intellectual property rights; and counterfeit and shoddy products” which is ironic, considering the amount of copyright infringement, theft and counterfeit and shoddy goods which the Chinese are responsible for. Pot, kettle, black, as we say.

“Endangered wild animals as well as their products Such as ivory; tiger bone; rhinoceros horn and their products; etc” Enough said . . .

Then there are books. “Illegal publications; printed matters; audiovisual products and other propaganda materials Books; publications; pictures; photos; audiovisual products that contain reactionary contents; contents inciting nationality hatred; undermining state unity; destroying social stability and propagating evil cults and religious extremism; or obscene contents etc”.

This seems to include second hand reference books on coins. I know this because the courier we tried to employ to deliver two old coin books refuses to take any books at all to China. Fortunately, if you take out the reference to “coin books” and then write “coin catalogues” the automated booking form accepts it without a qualm.

I was enjoying the thought of being a dangerous reactionary intent on destroying state unity by sending two old coin books, but it seems I’m not that interesting. However, it does strike me (and I’m not advocating breaking any laws) that if you did want to send a nuclear reactor to Bosnia Herzegovina  you could probably do so if you change the customs declaration to “car parts”.

Stack of books burning

Day 96

I spoke to someone about Kindles last night. Today I mentioned them in one of my replies to a comment.

This is how it is. I like books. I like sitting in a room with well-filled bookshelves. But I like having several hundred books contained in something the size of one slim book, and I like the ability to increase the font size and have lighting readily available. As my eyes have aged I find the last two points to be of growing importance.

Now, for a moment, place yourself in a forest glade. See the beams of sunlight that penetrate the foliage, smell the damp soil as it sinks beneath your feet, and listen to the birdsong. That is how I see reading a book. With a book you have physical presence, weight, and the smell of dust and mould and paper (yes, I do have a lot of second-hand books). Reading a Kindle is like watching a nature programme on TV. They can show you the sunbeams and record the birdsong, but there is nothing physical beneath your feet, and no scent.

That just got6 me thinking about blue eyes in animals. Specifically, why do very few animals, apart from humans, have blue eyes? How, you ask did I get to this? Simply by thinking that an orangutan on TV is less easy to bond with than one in a zoo where you can see it, hear it, smell it and make eye contact.

Unfortunately I made the mistake of  looking on the internet for an answer, an error further compounded by wandering into Quora. That, for those of you who have been fortunate enough to avoid it, is the digital opposite of the British Library, being a worldwide depository for stupidity.

And with that thought on modernity and the digital age, I will leave you for now.

A  pile of books

Wednesday Morning

I went to hospital this morning and parked up under the treatment centre. I spent the best part of an hour writing and watching life pass me buy then stuck a mask on and went in. The reason for the hour’s wait was because I wanted to get there while there were still spaces left.

By the time I walked into the entrance there were still spaces left – another great plan that didn’t quite work out. However, it wasn’t wasted time as I did quite a lot of writing. And compared to taking a taxi, I saved £12.

The sheet of questions you used to be asked about Covid has been reduced to a simple “Any Covid symptoms?” from a bored receptionist. This is quicker, but less reassuring.

By the time I left I had a lump of “putty” and two sheets of hand exercises. I am so looking forward to doing something like 20 exercises, each with ten reps and each at least twice a day. That’s going to be… (sound of wheels turning and gears clunking… a lot…

I’ve just ordered a couple of plastic gadgets to pop my pills out of the packets for me and, more importantly, to catch them for me. I tend to drop a lot due to declining dexterity.

I’ve also looked up my grip strength to compare it to the average. Seems that even with arthritis my grip strength in my dominant hand is strong. The non-dominant hand score is about two thirds of the other, but still good. I’m surprised at the size of the difference, though I couldn’t use one of my fingers on that hand. I’m feeling a bit better now, as I have been feeling pretty decrepit lately.

We went out for a coffee after I returned home, then went to Hobbycraft for Julia to buy things. Nothing much of any importance occurred but judging from my fellow drivers it was National Leave Your Brain at Home and Drive Like an Idiot Day, particularly for those driving 4x4s. Not one of them, it seems, can plan their route 50 yards in advance, with the result that I have to be barged to one side to allow them access to the lane they need.

While we were out we found a charity bin that takes books. It was nearly empty so all the books from the boot of the car went in there. I’m giving some specialist books to one of the customers on Saturday, so will have got rid of several hundred this week. It’s sad, but necessary.




Nudge nudge…

You may have noticed I didn’t post last night, though with so much activity on WP you probably didn’t notice. If you did notice, it’s possible that you remembered I posted recently on cutting back on my WP writing and thought, “Aha! He’s cutting back on his WP writing, just like he said he would.”

Of course, if you are one of the die-hard cynics that seem to congregate here, you may have thought “I bet he left it late then fell asleep in front of the TV”.

This goes to prove that, cynical as you may be, you aren’t incorrect.

I can’t remember what I was watching when I fell asleep, but by the time I woke up the TV had switched itself off. As the schedule seems to be full of rubbish, this was probably a good thing. In fact, considering the amount of rubbish on TV, it probably committed suicide out of shame.

We are still decluttering and more bags of books are on their way to the car. I emailed Oxfam to see about taking books in, and was told that I had to email the nearest shop to find out what the local policy was. They did offer to do it for me if necessary, but it seems an inefficient way of doing things.


Bumblebee on Teasel

At the moment, having been given room to think, we have offered the books to one of Julia’s volunteers who does jumble sales and is currently running a local library service.

If you’ve ever read Inside the Nudge Unit you may recognise my behaviour – looks like I’m a case study from the Behavioural Insights Team.

In summary, if you want people to things for you, you make it easier, or less easy not to do. Governments do this by streamlining forms and by adding a reminder that most people pay their taxes on time. If you don’t want people to do things (like cancelling standing orders) you just add an extra step and that serves to put a lot of people off.


Bumble bee on bramble flowers – Sherwood Forest




Authors, Austen and AI

I’ve just been reading this. I’m now more convinced than ever that technology is not for me. Having just read an article that tells me future books are going to be written by Artificial Intelligence. This is depressing. However, it isn’t as depressing as reading the AI attempts at classic literature.

Even more depressing, I read that the average reading age in the UK is somewhere between nine and eleven. There are a number of statistics around this, with a variety of measurements and interpretations, but it means that a lot of adults struggle to get by with reading. A significant proportion can’t read simple notes or road signs. I am worried by this for a number of reasons. Not only will these people not be able to enjoy the pleasure of Wordsworth or Wodehouse, but there is a distinct possibility that they are a danger to other road users. That, I suppose, is why so many road signs have pictures on them.

The state of the nation’s education system was first revealed to me when I was recruiting school leavers to work on a poultry farm. I told the careers advisor we would need people within reasonable literacy and numeracy skills but after they sent several illiterate candidates (because it was only a poultry farm) we reverted to advertising in the local paper.

I won’t even mention my view of careers advisors because I think we covered that a few days ago, but I was shocked to find that it was possible to pass an entire school career without learning to read and write.

blur book stack books bookshelves

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

So much depends on being able to read. In fact everything depends on it, including your academic results in other subjects, and your success (not necessarily monetary)  in life. Yes, you can be successful without being a great reader but it must be harder.

You can either believe me about this or you can search the internet. The only trouble with the internet is that there is so much information, often gathered and interpreted differently, that it’s hard work putting it all together. You read one list of the top ten nations for literacy and then you read another and only a couple of the countries are duplicated. Unfortunately they tend to agree that the UK is about 17th. It’s not a disaster, but it’s not very good either.

One of the sites I read had a question from a user asking if anyone out there had read 100 books. People were generally quite polite, but they did mention that they had read 100 by the time they left school or had read fifty or even a hundred in a year. It all depends on what you call a book. I’ve probably been going through three a week during lockdown, but we’re talking about Golden Age and modern cosy crime books, so they aren’t actually hard.

I really must start a better balanced reading programme, a few more classic novels and some non-fiction. That, however, is a diversion. We’re talking about literacy, not about me squandering my life on whodunnits.

I’ve tried various ways of reading a better selection over the years, but it always degenerates into a discussion of why I hate Don Quixote. I just re-read that post, from 23 April 2016, and found the sentence “I had muesli for breakfast as I wanted something smallish in case I set my socket off.”

No, I haven’t a clue what I meant to write.

I’ve just been reading the local literacy project website, and have decided to start volunteering once lockdown ends. Really, I should have been doing it for years.

The question is whether I volunteer to help adults or children.At least, by telling you all I am making sure I can’t back out.

boy in white and black school uniform reading book

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com


Awkward Friday

It’s one of those odd days today – the day between Boxing Day and the weekend. I’m not sure anybody knows what to do with it. I got up early to do things and get myself in gear before returning to work on Saturday. The things I ended up doing were watching TV, eating toast and ringing people instead of going to see them. It was just so relaxing sitting at home with food, fire and family. It just goes to show that some things never go out of fashion.

I always used to work Christmas Day when I worked with poultry, as it used to allow the family men to have time off with their families. Later, I used to work Boxing Day and New Year’s Day doing antiques fairs. It’s only in the last ten years that I’ve begun to relax and enjoy holidays at home. This may, of course, simply be a sign of age or idleness, rather than a sign of relaxing.

I have been catching up on some reading over the last few days, nothing heavy, just a few crime novels. I’m just finishing Death on the Canal, part of a series set in Amsterdam featuring a female detective so weighed down with personal baggage that you just want to scream “less is more!” at the author.

I may write a full review later, but as it stands, with a Goodreads score of 3.7, it’s good , and I’d read more if they were given to me, as this one was, but I’m not sure I’d search them out and pass money over. Well written, great sense of place but too much baggage and the plotting isn’t quite crisp enough. I’m near the end and a character from the beginning has just been introduced as part of the solution. I’m not sure I’m happy with that – it’s one step beyond a red herring. I’m also starting to think I’ve missed a hole in the plot, so I’m off for a quick look.

I’ll let you know after I’ve finished and double-checked.

Meanwhile, I’ll slip in another library photograph. It’s a canal at Stoke on Trent. It’s a very vague link to Amsterdam, but it’s the best I’ve got.



A Different Sort of Day

Had bacon sandwiches for breakfast.

Did some decluttering and deadheading.

Had an argument about the best way to declutter. I, as usual, was wrong. It seems it’s far better to move lots of stuff multiple times and pile it up dangerously rather than just doing it once in a structured and stable manner. However, my way takes thought and it would involve me making decisions instead of just doing what I’m told.

We had lunch at McDonald’s, where they were having a “Bring Your Own Idiot to Work Day” judging by the service.

After that, we managed to hunt down a charity shop with a parking space outside. They now have eight bags of books we have more carpet to hoover.

Many of the books are cookery books. You can buy some excellent cookery books from charity shops for £2 or £3. However, I rarely use them much (usually only a couple of recipes) and they then gather dust.

Today, with some wax polish and an old vest, I removed the dust and added some gloss before returning them to the charity shop system.

My X-Ray appointment today did not go as well as the last one. Instead of same day service and ten minutes from start to finish, I had to wait three days for the appointment and sit in a stuffy corridor for an hour.

You would assume they had a great array of techniques and equipment to X-Ray fingers. They are tricky things to photograph from the side as you have to avoid taking all the others at the same time. With a metal plate (which I’m sure they used to use in the old days) and some gaffer tape I could have easily rigged something up, but with me holding the unwanted fingers out of the way and one wedge of blue foam it takes a while.

It’s nice to know that you get better service when they are looking for lung cancer than when they are looking for arthritis. Having said that, you still have to wait 7-10 days for the results whether you have a terminal condition or difficulty holding a pen.

I don’t, by the way, have lung cancer. I have a cough. That’s why I went to the doctor – pills for a cough, not an X-Ray followed by pills for a cough seven days later.

This is a good thing as I’ve just spent £300 on two new dental crowns. It would have been annoying not to get the use out of them.

There’s no point having the nicest teeth in the cemetery.







Scone Chronicles XVIII – Bakewell Pudding

The header picture is Julia sitting outside the Bakewell Pudding Parlour. Last time she was left to her own devices here she ended up buying macaroons. I’d forgotten all about that, and, once again, failed to supervise her in an appropriate manner. She emerged with teas, bakewell puddings and cheese pasties. She keeps feeding me despite my diet. When I say pasties, by the way, they were monstrous. They were big enough to use as hats. It seemed rude not to eat it, even though it contains a possibly lethal dose of fat and calories.


However, I’m not going to talk about pasties, because this is a chronicle of scones. So I’m going to talk about Bakewell Puddings. There’s only so much you can say about scones, and I’m short of ideas for places to visit at the moment. My brain seems to be working rather slowly at the moment. I swear I’ve declined in intelligence over the last few months. Much more of this and I’ll have no option but to embark on a political career.

The Bakewell Pudding, as made in Bakewell, is not the same as the shop bought Bakewell Tart, which is generally an iced cake in a pastry case.  I’ve not made a Bakewell of any type myself, though I have made frangipanes with Cape Gooseberries (physalis, inca berries, ground cherries – it has so many names).

Today’s puddings were great – flaky pastry cases full of sticky deliciousness. Julia didn’t care for them, preferring something less sticky. It’s an ill wind that blows no good, or, in other words, I ate hers too.

In truth, they will never replace scones, but they are a pleasant change and it seems silly to go all the way to Bakewell to eat scones.


I also bought a few books, so it was a good day.